Pensioner stabbed in face with screwdriver in horror burglary in East Finchley

A member of a violent gang that burst into a woman’s home and stabbed her in the face with a screwdriver has been jailed.

The grandmother, 67, was beaten and stabbed millimetres from her eye after three burglars broke into her house in Huntingdon Road, East Finchley.

The horrendous ordeal could have been even worse had two builders not risked their lives to halt the senseless attack.

Workman John Hancock was stabbed three times with a screwdriver as he tried to stop one of the thugs getting away. His brave intervention led to the capture of Patrick O’Leary, 21 – who was jailed for eight years at Wood Green Crown Court on Monday.

Speaking after the sentencing, the grandmother told the Ham&High she wanted to send a message to the men, two of whom are still at large.

She said: “The thing I would like to say to them is: How would they feel if their mother was treated like that? The police told me [O’Leary’s] mother was really crying in court, but they should really think of the other people’s lives as well. How would they feel if it was one of their family members?”

The woman, who the Ham&High has agreed not to name, is still living in fear eight months after the attack.

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The court was told that her life has been “ruined” and she is no longer the “happy, smiling person” she once was. She does not answer her door, rarely leaves her house, no longer cooks and suffers from panic attacks. Her relationship with her two grown-up children has also suffered under the strain.

She was at home alone when the gang, armed with knives and screwdrivers, barged through her front door in broad daylight on Thursday, February 20.

One of the thugs, who was never caught, slammed the front door on her arm and then stabbed her in the face with a screwdriver.

He narrowly missed her eye and left a deep gash which was treated in hospital. The burglars tried to flee when interrupted by builders Mr Hancock, 46, and Ollie Record, 31, both from Hemel Hempstead.

As O’Leary ran past he was grabbed by the workmen.

He freed himself by stabbing Mr Hancock three times, but was eventually caught using DNA on a cap and shoe which came off in the scuffle.

On Monday, he received eight years for aggravated burglary, four years for wounding with intent, one for actual bodily harm and nine months for possession of an offensive weapon. He is likely to serve four years in prison and four on licence.

O’Leary, of Harris Road, Watford, had pleaded guilty to all offences except wounding with intent, arguing he was upstairs when the woman was attacked, but a jury convicted him in less than an hour under joint responsibility.

Sentencing, Judge Nicholas Browne QC criticised him for not having the “guts” to name his accomplices or admit to the wounding offence.

He said: “She was a vulnerable woman attacked in her own home and her life will never be the same again. I can’t forget the effect all these matters had on your elderly victim and her family.”

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